The Hidden Truth about Tartar

November 2, 2020
Dr. Katherine Nicholson

The Hidden Truth about Tartar

You’ve heard about tartar, but what exactly is this mysterious substance that builds up on our teeth?

You can think about it as a domino effect. Plaque contains bacteria, which is present in everyone’s mouth. However, when too much of this bacteria builds up, it mixes with saliva and food particles and forms a hard, sticky yellow- or brown-colored plaque deposit. This deposit settles along the gum line, and if it isn’t removed with proper brushing and flossing regularly, it can lead to tartar buildup.

Once it has formed, tartar can only be removed by a dentist or a hygienist, either by scaling with hand-held instruments or by using professional tools like an ultrasonic handpiece. This sonic, deep-cleaning tool vibrates at high frequencies to remove substances from the surface of the tooth.


Causes of Tartar Buildup

There are certain things that can make tartar worse, such as smoking, having a dry mouth, crowded teeth, or eating too many sugary foods. At Carolina General and Cosmetic Dentistry, we tell our patients to use extra care to floss and brush regularly so that you can prevent the buildup of this sticky substance.

Effects of Tartar

Because of the nature of how tartar attaches to the enamel of your teeth, when it is left untreated, tarter can lead to painful cavities, bad breath, or even the gum disease Gingivitis. Each of these issues alone can have unwanted ripple effects for your overall health. We like to share Ben Franklin’s saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” when it comes to tartar buildup.


How can you prevent tartar buildup? There are a few simple steps that you can take every day. Brushing and flossing are your first line of defense. Flossing daily is the best way to remove particles between your teeth and along your gum line.

We recommend brushing twice daily using an electric toothbrush and a tartar-control fluoride toothpaste. This combination will not only provide thorough and comprehensive brushing, but will also add another layer of protection against unwanted tartar buildup.

Make sure to minimize sugary foods and make healthy choices for your body.

Additionally, schedule a dental cleaning and oral exam every six months. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional.


If you think you might be experiencing tartar buildup, we invite you to meet with Dr. Nicholson to discuss options for your dental needs. Give us a call, and one of our friendly team members will be glad to schedule an appointment or answer any questions that you may have.

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